Fluoridation Benefits all Members of the Community
While it may be true that the majority of the benefits water fluoridation provides fall to children, it is equally true that all members of a community enjoy the benefits of water fluoridation. Even so, opponents of fluoridation allege that plans to add fluoride to the public water supply are arbitrary and unreasonable because their stated purpose is to reduce the instance of dental caries in a limited class of citizens – more specifically, individuals under approximately twelve to fourteen years of age. Cases such as Chapman v. City of Shreveport, 74 So.2d 142 (La. 1954), and Dowell v. City of Tulsa, 273 P.2d 859 (Ok. 1954), have found that a statute directed at a particular class of citizens is not to be automatically rendered arbitrary and unreasonable.
In Chapman v. City of Shreveport, 74 So.2d 142 (La. 1954), the court stated that a statute directed at a limited class of citizens may nevertheless be beneficial to the public as a whole. Id. at 146. The court further explained that the addition of fluorides to the water would eventually directly benefit the entire population, as today’s children will mature to become the adult population. Id. The court in Froncek v. City of Milwaukee, 69 N.W.2d 242, 247 (Wis. 1955), cited its approval of Chapman’s conclusion that the fact that the purpose of fluoridation is to prevent the occurrence of tooth decay in a limited class of citizens does not preclude it from being within the reaches of the state’s police power.
The plaintiffs in Dowell advanced a similar argument, claiming that fluoridating the water could not be justified as a public health measure because of the lack of evidence proving the treatments would benefit anyone over the age of sixteen. Dowell v. City of Tulsa, 273 P.2d 859, 863 (Ok. 1954). The Dowell court responded to this claim much like the Chapman court, finding it without merit. “When it is borne in mind that the children and youth of today are the adult citizens of tomorrow, and that this one segment of the population unquestionably benefited by the drinking of fluoridated water now, will in a few years comprise all or a very large percentage of Tulsa’s population; and it is further realized that reducing the incidence of dental caries in children will also benefit their parents, the fallacy of plaintiffs’ argument is manifest.” Dowell at 863.
The limited class argument was also raised in Readey v. St. Louis County Water Co., 352 S.W.2d 622, 631 (Mo. 1961). The Readey court determined the fluoridation measure to be beneficial to the public as a whole, citing testimony in the record that because children will become adults the benefits are actually bestowed upon all citizens.
The consensus among courts seems to be that although the addition of fluorides to water provides direct benefits mainly to young children, it also indirectly benefits the parents of those children. And as children will inevitably grow up and comprise a large portion of the adult population in a particular area, fluoridation will eventually directly affect all citizens.